Election 2012: A Debate Moderator Should Be a Woman

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The home stretch of election season is rich with tradition: the GOP Vice President will be picked. Both parties throw a big party, host their nominating conventions -- with Republicans nominating Mitt Romney in Tampa, Florida and Democrats renominating President Barack Obama in Charlotte, North Carolina.

One tradition that stands out for being as retro as Mad Men are the Presidential Debates -- two for the presidential candidates, one for their running mates -- because the moderator has almost always been a man. In fact, the last time a woman chaired one with the presidential debates, it was former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson in 1992. PBS’ Gwen Ifill moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates.

Shocking, right? More than shocking, this fact is just plain ridiculous given that women make up more than half the U.S. population, according to the 2010 Census and since 1984, a majority of the overall vote.

Three New Jersey teens have taken to the internet to “right this wrong.” They created the petition “It’s Time for a Female Moderator: Equality in the 2012 Presidential Debates!” on Change.org with a second one asking both the Obama and Romney campaigns to support their movement by calling on the Commission on Presidential Debates to choose a women. At the speed of a tweet, the petitions have snagged nearly 180,000 signatures.

On this internet request are pictures of some female journalists, like Gwen Ifill, CBS’ Leslie Stahl, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Katie Couric, the first female to solo anchor an evening news broadcast and Diane Sawyer who followed in Katie’s historic footsteps are also featured. Missing is my pick, María Elena Salinas who preceded her “mainstream” English-speaking counterparts having co-anchored Univision’s Noticiero for more than twenty-five years.

That the majority of debate moderators have been men is no surprise. Back in the day, most newsrooms were filled with white male journalists, dominated by greats such as Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow. But since the 1980s, the media have slowly grown more diverse with more women, and to a lesser degree, those from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds joining the ranks and reaching leadership positions. Add to this the change more of us getting information from Twitter, Facebook, and other social media on our mobile phones than by watching a traditional TV news broadcast.

The question is, will the Commission on Presidential Debates “get with the times”, at least by naming a woman as moderator?

Tell Us: Who is your pick to moderate a 2012 Presidential or Vice-Presidential debate?

Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. Read more of Viviana's political posts here

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